CPP hails opposition vs Duterte plan to ‘replicate’ Marcos; Luneta rally will be on Roxas Blvd

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Espana Blvd protest march
Activists converge on España Boulevard in Manila before marching to Mendiola and then to Luneta for anti-dictatorship rallies. (photo by Obet de Castro)

MANILA, Philippines — The Communist Party of the Philippines hailed the protest on Thursday, September 21, saying it showed “the determination of the Filipino people to oppose (President Rodrigo) Duterte’s plan to replicate his idol,” the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

In Manila, the Movement Against Tyranny, which organized the rally at the Luneta, confirmed that the demonstration will no longer be inside the park itself but on the stretch of Roxas Boulevard from TM Kalaw to P. Burgos Avenue.

This was after they failed to secure the area in front of the Quirino grandstand where former Bayan Muna representative Teddy Casiño said will be the venue of a feeding program and medical mission by the Lions Club.

Despite the change of venue, Casiño said they expect the protest to be peaceful.

Aside from marking the 45th anniversary of Marcos’ declaration of martial law over the country, Thursday’s protests are also meant to oppose what critics see as the increasingly brutal reign of Duterte, seen in a war on drugs that has claimed more than 13,000 lives since he assumed office, a counterinsurgency campaign marked by what human rights activists say are massive abuses, and the declaration of martial law over Mindanao.

“It’s all systems go,” Casiño said. “The stage is almost complete. May mga last minute changes lang sa program kasi ang daming gustong sumali pa (There are last minute changes to the program because more people want to join), and we’re trying to accommodate everyone.”

MAT, an alliance of human rights, faith-based, and indigenous peoples’ groups, among others, said the rally is open to “people of all colors, all beliefs, and all ages who want a stop to the extrajudicial killings and other acts of tyranny of the Duterte regime.”

The Luneta program will start with the monologue “Sisa” and the song “Ugoy ng Duyan” to “represent the thousands of grieving mothers whose children have been killed in the government’s drug war and counterinsurgency operations.”

The program will end with the simultaneous ringing of bells at 8 p.m. nationwide (kampana ng konsyensiya) called by Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Archbishop Socrates Villegas to awaken the conscience of a nation grown numb to the killings.

Marcos-era veterans like former Senator Rene Saguisag, former St. Scholastica’s College president Sr. Mary John Mananzan, and Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses to Malacañang spokesperson Bonifacio Ilagan are expected to deliver speeches. There would also be performances from artists like Bituin Escalante, Audie Gemora, the cast of PETA’s Game of Trolls, Buklod, spoken word artist Juan Miguel Severo, Pen Medina, Toym Imao, Joel Saracho, Mae Paner a.k.a. Juana Change, rapper BLKD, La Loba Negra, Chikoy Pura, the Dwight Gaston Band, and Tropical Depression.

“What better day to unite the Filipino people against threats of a fascist dictatorship by Rodrigo Duterte than today when 45 years ago Marcos imposed martial law and founded his dictatorship?” the CPP said in an editorial in its publication Ang Bayan, as it accused Duterte of wanting to “install himself as a fascist dictator and use absolute power to control the entire state machinery and resources for himself and his clique.”

The CPP leads forces, including the New People’s Army, who have been waging an armed struggle for close to half a century. Although the rebels had initially been optimistic after Duterte resumed formal peace talks with them, fighting has since resumed after negotiations bogged down.

“Duterte’s victims are now the most determined to hinder the vile fascist plot to put the entire country under martial law and intensify the campaigns of death and destruction,” the CPP said. “They are set to be joined by broad sections of Philippine society, by various political parties and groups, churches, communities and so on.”

At the same time, the CPP predicted that Thursday’s protest would “inspire more demonstrations in the coming weeks and months” as “Duterte’s hundreds of thousands of victims demand their grievances be heard.”

It called on them to hold “assemblies … from barangay halls to coliseums to indict Duterte and express their collective anger” against a president who “is in a frenzy to monopolize political power and silence all those opposing his programs and policies.”